Awesome. Inspiring. Surreal. Transformational. Meditative. Astonishing. Captivating. Beyond imagination. Crazy. No words can adequately describe the Basilica Sagrada Familia in Eixample, Barcelona, Spain.
You can learn more about this architectural wonder by reading works of art historians, cultural pundits and architects than you can from me. So, I won’t say much more than this is Gaudi’s interpretation of God’s majesty and homage to the sacred family of living beings who inhabit his kingdom.
Smack dab in the middle of this astonishing sculptural masterpiece is the Christ figure, arms outstretched, body on the cross, suspended under a canopy of lights. Is the architect asking us to suspend all disbelief? He floats above us, naked, exposed, soaring and protected under an umbrella or cloud of gold. Color dazzles the interior through stained glass windows.
The supporting columns are like tree trucks with limbs holding up the cavernous ceiling. It is a phantasmagorical dreamscape that can only conjure up what the imagination beholds.
I arch backward, look up, see the bones of dinosaurs, the hull of a ship, the backbone of man, the spines of sea coral, cut glass, anemones, the eye of god.
Gaudi lived and worked during the Art Nouveau-Modernism, Impressionism and Cubism eras. Once a strong supporter of the Anticleric movement in Spain, he embraced his renewed Catholicism with a fervor. The Basilica, unfinished, is his testimony to unwavering belief.
Sidebar: At about the same time that 19th Century anticlericalism gained a more solid footing in Europe, in Mexico, anticlericalism became the rallying cry of Mexican reformists with the confiscation of church property in 1824.
Before we left the USA, I put out a call for advice about which lens (or lenses) to take. I was inclined to take only the lighter weight 50mm prime for my Nikon D7000 camera. I am trying to learn how to travel lighter. Thanks to advice from Lynn Nichols and Steve Zavodny (who is a pro pho), I relented and brought along the Tamron 11-16mm and the 17-55mm. Thankfully!
Most of the photos on this post were taken with the wide angle Tamron lens so I could capture the magnitude of the space.
We bought tickets in advance from the USA in order to avoid lengthy waits in line and chose to visit the Passion Tower, one of two that is open to visitors. After spending about 45 minutes in the sanctuary we rode an elevator to the top of the tower (at our appointed time), then returned to spend another two hours inside for reflection and photographs.
By the time we left it was after 2 p.m. and time for tapas at La Catalana, just two blocks away.
Two Photo Workshops Coming Up in Southern Mexico!
- October 2015–Day of the Dead Photography Workshop, Oaxaca
- January 2016–Chiapas Faces and Festivals Photography Workshop
There is a lot of construction going on now. Huge cranes towering above are moving man and machinery as another tower is under construction. Many of the facade mosaic ornaments are covered in protective gauze. Heights are dizzying. Views from the tower top are magnificent. It’s like being in the turret of a medieval castle.
Compare and contrast with Mexico? The art nouveau movement spawned the European romanticism of Mexico City’s renaissance during the Porfiriata. Catalan architects designed and built here. Examples include stained glass ceilings and construction techniques in the Palacio de Hierro and the Gran Hotel Ciudad de Mexico. Rivera brought his classical European training back to Mexico and adapted it to begin the Mexican muralism movement along with Siqueiros and Orozco.
Contact me if you are interested in a Mexico City art history tour:
Looking for Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo
Critics Sidebar: Our taxi driver had an opinion. He said the Sagrada Familia is a commercial tourism venture and not authentic to the original ideals of Gaudi. Since the building was unfinished when Gaudi died at age 74, it’s completion has been left to architectural interpretation of Gaudi’s original drawings which were destroyed during the Spanish Civil War. He recommended we go to Montjuic to see the real Barcelona.
Artist Salvador Dali at Port Lligat, Girona, Spain
Port Lligat on Spain’s Costa Brava, is a niche in the rock wall coast line of the Mediterranean Sea, just around the bend from Cadaques. This tiny fishing village is where surrealist artist Salvador Dali lived and painted for most of his adult life.
We ended up here more or less by accident, since we had booked no hotels in advance between our visit to the Dali Theatre-Museum in Figueres and our last three nights in Barcelona before returning to San Francisco. Our only plan was to rent a car and go.
This was both wonderful and a mistake. Wonderful because our path took us to Cadaques and Port Lligat, two glorious, sun bathed Mediterranean villages hugging two coastline coves. The mistake was, without planning, we hadn’t bought advanced tickets for the Dali house admission, so we didn’t get in.
No matter! The gardens and views are amazing and there are plenty of surreal sculpture installations to capture the imagination, including a baby grand piano spilling its guts.
The house is perched on a rock hill overlooking the sea. It is studded with olive trees, outbuildings, patios and flowers planted in teacup pots. Videos give visitors a complete art history into Dali and his wife Gala’s life here, along with all the idiosyncracies of his controversial life, politics and religious views.
In front of the swimming pool, designed a la a surrealist’s view of the Alhambra palace complete with lion fountains, a Pirelli tire sculpture frames the famous Mae West lips sofa. All visitors take their turn posing on the sofa for a photo.
Dali and his wife Gala bought the small fisherman’s cottage in Port Lligat from his childhood nursemaid. He developed and expanded it over the years, and it became the place he retreated to. The rock outcroppings of place take on surrealistic forms in his paintings.
Lips are a Dali icon. In the 60’s he made ruby studded gold lips worn as a pin. If you want, you can buy a glass knock-off in any of the affiliated museum shops along with moustache adorned t-shirts and Dali-designed perfume bottles. The man was definitely an entrepreneur who capitalized on his reputation and his talent.
The surrealists discredited him. Leftists disowned him. Priests embraced him. Socialites basked in his aura. Hollywood gave him entrée. He appeared on the cover of Time Magazine at age 32. Sigmund Freud was his hero.
Art critics weigh in about his apolitical position of the Spanish Civil War. Some say everything he did was sexually and psychologically motivated. Others say he was an exploiter and showman. He was said to have applauded Franco’s assassination of his good friend, poet Federico Garcia Lorca as a surreal moment of life.
Whatever you think of Salvador Dali, his work is astounding and a visit to his birth place of Figueres and the Dali Theatre Museum is a must if you go to Barcelona. It’s only an hour north by AVE fast train going 200 km/hour.
We hadn’t planned on going to the beach because we are no longer sun worshippers. But, we needed a respite from visiting so many cities (Barcelona, Bilbao, Granada, Girona, Figueres) and historical/architectural points of interest.
Cadeques turned out to be the perfect place to settle for three nights. I would recommend longer. Five days wouldn’t be too long! More on Cadaques to come. Everything about being in a white-washed Mediterranean village is true. In Spain, it’s even more true because of the food and the people, to say nothing of the leisurely strolling and shopping.
It’s a dog’s life, too. Not just for Salvador Dali.
And to know and feel the Mediterranean, I took off my shoes and put my feet in the beautiful, clean, clear water and walked the curve of the shoreline.
Posted in Cultural Commentary, Photography, Travel & Tourism
Tagged art, art history, beach, Cadaques, Costa Brava, critics, Figueres, Girona, painting, politics, Port Lligat, Salvador Dali, Spain, Spanish Civil War, surrealism, tourism, travel